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London River

From the director of Days Of Glory

A pair of superb yet humble performances give London River its reason for being. This grave two-hander about the aftermath of the July 2005 bombings is a world away from the bristling, politicised, docudrama stylings of a Paul Greengrass project. In the hands of French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb (Days Of Glory), there’s a ghostly hush to the film, an air of apprehension. It’s a story about waiting for news – good news, any news – and about fearing the worst. Elizabeth (Brenda Blethyn, in her meatiest work since Secrets & Lies) is a Christian widow with a smallholding on Guernsey. Watching television on that July morning, she’s horrified by the blood and rubble, and picks up the phone to check that her daughter, who lives in Finsbury Park, is all right. She can only leave a message. Hours pass, and she busies herself with chores. But there’s no call back, and she anxiously makes arrangements to get to London and find her. Once there, Elizabeth’s search takes her to police stations and hospitals, and she posts her daughter’s photo wherever she can. The fretting and confusion of this vulnerable mum are set in relief on the wary, shaken streets of the capital. When she first meets Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyaté), an elderly, dreadlocked French-African Muslim looking for his son, she’s frightened even to shake his hand and jumpily gets him arrested. As they continue to collide in the course of their searches, perhaps a little implausibly, a kinship grows: these are both parents whose children were missing from their lives long before the bombers struck. Kouyaté, the Burkinabé veteran who died in April this year, won Berlin’s Best Actor award, and it’s hard to imagine this film without his gangly, dignified stoicism at its heart. For Blethyn, who has sometimes been broad to the point of caricature, it’s a rare chance to explore a deeply plausible character from the inside out, reminding you how subtly she can handle reflexive, Middle England prejudice while keeping you on side. The film around them is timid at times, a little hemmed in by its own scrupulous humanism, but it still affords as moving an acting partnership as you’ll see all year. – Tim Robey, The Daily Telegraph Official Trailer
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Directed by: 
Rachid Bouchareb
Running Time: 
English and French with English subtitles
Brenda Blethyn, Sotigui Kouyaté
Screenplay by: 
Rachid Bouchareb, Olivier Lorelle

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